A. Notwithstanding subsection D of this section, joint legal decision-making shall not be awarded if the court makes a finding of the existence of significant domestic violence pursuant to section 13-3601 or if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been a significant history of domestic violence.
B. The court shall consider evidence of domestic violence as being contrary to the best interests of the child. The court shall consider the safety and well-being of the child and of the victim of the act of domestic violence to be of primary importance. The court shall consider a perpetrator’s history of causing or threatening to cause physical harm to another person.
C. To determine if a person has committed an act of domestic violence the court, subject to the rules of evidence, shall consider all relevant factors including the following:
- Findings from another court of competent jurisdiction.
- Police reports.
- Medical reports.
- Records of the department of child safety.
- Domestic violence shelter records.
- School records.
- Witness testimony.
Although courts should consider evidence of domestic violence at every point in decision-making and visitation negotiations, there is no guarantee that judges will do so.
Women often report that violence plays a significant role in divorce proceedings, specifically regarding the issues of decision-making, visitation and child support.
Partner violence is a factor in anywhere from a third or a half of the cases where decision-making is disputed.
In disputed family court cases, somewhere between 15 percent and 25 percent show substantiating evidence of physical abuse, such as prior arrest, criminal court finding or court order.
Many abusers appear to use the legal system to maintain contact and harass their ex-partners, at times using extensive and lengthy litigation.
Many women compromise on their demands for resources during divorce negotiations for fear of losing decision-making of their children.
In cases of domestic violence, fathers who contest decision-making win sole or joint decision-making up to 70 percent of the time.
Joint decision-making precludes separation between a victim and her abuser, because the parents must transfer children and have joint decision-making. This ongoing communication provides excessive, yet legally required, opportunities for the batterer to continue his abuse.
Courts seem to ignore abuse and privilege the father-child relationship despite the danger, concluding that father estrangement is more traumatic to children than paternal abuse and giving decision-making of the children to the abuser.
In spite of evidence of violence against women and/or their children, the courts consistently ordered sole or joint decision-making to perpetrators in 74 percent of the cases in Maricopa County and 56 percent of the cases in the other counties combined.